A firefighter sitting in an office with a programmer discussing public safety innovations

Cincinnati student challenge generates innovative technology solutions for public safety

This blog is a repost from AT&T Connects, originally published on June 16, 2022.

First responders today rely on an ever-evolving set of tools and technologies, from two-way radios to smartphones and laptops. FirstNet Built with AT&T recently joined with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) to take that evolution to a new level, hosting a First Responder Student Innovation Challenge at the University of Cincinnati.

The two-week event brought UC students and local public safety agencies together to explore how technology can enhance first responders’ ability to address critical situations.

  • Each of the six multidisciplinary student teams was led by two coaches: an active first responder and a member of UC faculty.
  • Every team was assigned a distinct theme: transportation, police, fire, EMT/hospitals, emergency management, and dispatch/9-1-1.
  • Teams experienced a hands-on look into their theme in the form of a job shadow, ride along, or similar exposure to the current reality.
  • Finally, each team developed a presentation sharing theme insights and describing an innovative, yet feasible, technology solution to increase the efficiency or effectiveness of public safety work within that theme.

The first responder coaches included:

  • Andy Knapp and Scott Brown, Hamilton County, Ohio Communications/9-1-1
  • Morgan Peterson, Hamilton County Emergency Management
  • Fire Captain Lou Ernstes and Police Lieutenant Steve Schueler, Blue Ash, Ohio
  • Terri Haynes, Jewish Hospital EMS Coordinator
  • Reggie Price, Metro Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Safety Specialist

“The coaches were key to making this event a success,” said Ryan Favor, FirstNet Built with AT&T Consultant. “They spent hours with the students and helped them understand what it’s like to be a first responder and some of the challenges. Their efforts resulted in the students developing some very cool technology-based solutions. We greatly appreciate their participation.”

The winning student team was the dispatch/9-1-1 team. They proposed an artificial intelligence system with speech recognition that could automatically categorize 9-1-1 calls, prioritize dispatch, and use background noise to collect other insights about the incident. The proposed system could save precious moments in response time. And faster processing of 9-1-1 calls could also identify duplicative calls more efficiently.

“For challenges like this, collaboration between first responders and intellectually-curious students is so important,” said Kyle Richardson, Senior Public Safety Advisor for the FirstNet Authority. “These immersive experiences were key to understanding how nationwide trends in public safety communications play out in the local Cincinnati area. The student teams did an excellent job of leveraging the capabilities of FirstNet to present innovative solutions for public safety’s biggest communication challenges.”

We want to thank the students, first responders, and FirstNet Authority, which helped to define the parameters of the Innovation Challenge based on nationwide public safety communication trends, for playing a compelling and unique role in developing innovative and immersive solutions for the public safety community.    

Learn more about how FirstNet is transforming public safety communications — contact your local FirstNet Authority Public Safety Advisor and sign up for our discipline newsletters. Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn for the latest FirstNet Authority updates.

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